You are about to begin a life journey many dream of and few get to experience. Receiving that acceptance letter might be a reason to celebrate, but it’s also a reason to stop and think about how you are going to get yourself ready to make this a rewarding and enjoyable experience.
SMALL FISH, BIG POND
Remember how you felt transitioning from Junior school to High school? Well, here you go again. No matter how popular you were at school, how brilliant and sporty you were, now you are surrounded by people with the same or similar credentials. As intimidating as this may feel, it is also an opportunity to engage with your peers, learn new things about yourself and prove your worth.
YOU’RE ON A BUDGET – LIVE ACCORDINGLY
If you are lucky enough to have a student loan, be careful; it might not go as far as you think. While it should cover most of your accommodation costs, it might not go as far as sorting out your food, laundry, toiletries and entertainment.
Unexpected costs can creep up on you, and you should be prepared. Nothing comes cheap these days. Where possible, try and plan ahead and secure part-time work, especially around holiday periods. As well as helping you pay for those little extras you know you’ll be tempted with, it will be good experience to put on your CV. Try and forge a solid relationship with your employer, so you can be sure of regular part-time paying jobs.
NOW YOU’RE COOKING
Some of you will already be skilled in the art of cooking in the parental home, but mom won’t be around to do everything for you. This can come as a shock to many students.
Simple healthy cooking is not difficult to learn. Basic recipes such as one-pot meals are quick, versatile, healthy and creative! Go check out some tasty examples on www.tasty.co for recipes anyone can master in minutes. You don’t have to do beans on toast every day!
Also, learn how to use a washing machine, tumble dryer and iron if you don’t already know how. While some students save their laundry for weekend trips home, you’re going to have to learn eventually, because laundry is a basic life skill you might as well get familiar with sooner rather than later.
Most universities will provide access to healthcare for free or a nominal charge. Not only should you look after yourself physically, but university can be a tough, stressful place and there will be times when you feel under stress and emotionally alone. Remember, more young people suffer from mental health issues today than ever before, and it has become socially acceptable to seek help for depression, grief or stress-related symptoms. Reach out!
HOME SWEET HOME
University is often the first experience many have of living away from home. All the comforts of home that you took for granted, all the familiar sights, sounds and smells are far away. On top of this, your accommodation options could be a bit of a wake-up call, especially if you’re on a tight budget. There are some things you can do to improve your surroundings and personalize your space to keep homesickness at bay.
Get Your own duvet set, in your favourite colours and patterns. Hang your own Posters and photos so you keep your favourite things and people close to you. Add a few cushions and fleece throws, a lamp or two and a few plants and already you’ll feel more at home and cozy.
One thing you can be sure of on any university campus; your social comfort zones will be challenged every day. Regardless of how open and accepting you are, here you will be dropped into a busy pool of different races, cultures, languages and opinions. You can try and avoid people who are different from you, or you can get closer to them, welcome their differences. It will make life so much more exciting!
A good way to start your university career is to keep an open door and a welcoming attitude; make your room a place where people want to gather – for a quiet chat or a good laugh. Get your room equipped for entertainment. A kettle, a few mugs, crockery and cutlery will kit you out to make your room a social hub…within reason, of course!
STAY IN TOUCH
Yes, the more you settle into your life at university, the busier you will become and the more fun you will be having. Be sure to remember to keep your family in the loop with your student life, especially if you are struggling. Hold your family close. They miss you and can help to give you comfort and support.
You are an adult now in a grown-up world. You will be interacting with many people from different backgrounds, different ages with different roles within the institution. Treat them all with respect. The world will soon judge you by how you relate with others, so now is as good a time as any to get it right.
DON’T FORGET WHY YOU ARE HERE
There are some frightening stats doing the rounds right now about graduation rates among South African students. Some sources say that between 20 – 30% of SA students graduate! So remember why you are here. Sure, have fun and make it the best experience of your life. But keep an eye on getting your assignments in on time and studying for your exams.